VAST – Virtuous Cycle for Connection

It’s all about how we show up. If we show up in a way that invites people to connect, to trust, to feel safer than usual, they probably will. And astonishing results will follow. Michael and I have a vast experience of limiting our results because we didn’t dare to show up, speak up, stand up. We’ve been not daring, not trying, not challenging, most of our lives—like most people! We’ve learned the hard way how to show up in a way that enables connection, and impact.

We use the VAST cycle to increase connection to grow engagement in the workplace. We know safety and trust are important, but that is not the whole story. We need whole humans, intensely connected, to unleash the co-creation of astonishing results.

Joint post with Michael Sahota.

VAST Cycle

VAST Cycle

VAST Cycle

Authentic Connection

How to use VAST for Yourself

We use VAST as a way to navigate relationships. It works in personal and professional contexts.

Use VAST for introspection: In relation to another, we may ask ourselves:

  • How trusting am I?
  • How safe do I feel?
  • How connected do I feel?
  • How vulnerable am I choosing to be?
  • Am I acting authentically?

With this new awareness, the model suggests a variety of moves:

  • I can choose to be vulnerable and share how I feel. How I am feeling unsafe. How I am not trusting.
  • I can choose to trust the other person and see how my behaviour shifts.
  • I can state what I want. “I want to restart this conversation. I want to focus on how we can support each other. I want to focus on the goal.”
  • I can ask for help.

In our experience, the most powerful move is vulnerability. Owning our experience and how we feel and then sharing it really kicks off the cycle. That’s what we mean by showing up.

VAST for Organizations

We use VAST to build awareness and choice for organizations. It is especially useful when contrasting with organisational debt (fear, mistrust) as a way of being.

A team, group, or organization may choose it as a future way of being. The cycle helps guide behaviour and create ideas for experiments.

We can use it in retrospectives, to collect narratives that demonstrate the behaviour we want. Acknowledge when someone was daring, inspiring us to move forward.

Run a Temenos lab to experience the cycle for yourself or with your team.

Origins of VAST

The VAST cycle is the result of a sense-making journey between Michael and I over the past years. We have been learning and studying its elements to help ourselves and our clients grow.

If you’ve followed my blog over the years, you’ll know that one of my first and major influences over the years have been Jim and Michele McCarthy, creator of the Core Protocols (part of my Culture Fitness Training) and Bootcamp. They’ve inspired and encouraged me to talk about and work with vulnerability, and even love, in a work context. They even wrote about the virtuous cycle of software recently, which I had not been aware of when Michael and I worked on this post. Thank you!

Pascal Pinck and Siraj Sirajuddin have introduced us to Temenos, which has been another core part of our learning journey where we discovered these insights.

The term “VAST” was created by Anton Gillis-Adelman – who is an expert in turning a jumble of letters into words.

Related Work



  1. jim mccarthy
    January 20, 2015

    My Dear Olaf,

    Happiest of New Years to you!

    As you may know, we have used the phrase, “virtuous cycle” (“virtuous cycle of software,” most typically; but there are others, as well). About a year ago, e.g, I wrote this (thinking I ought to make sure to document our use of the concept somewhere). I am curious if you may have heard us use this phrase, which – although it’s not original – use does have some original elements in it.

    Moreover, I believe we have contributed to the contemporary thinking – and practices – surrounding virtues, starting with our first BootCamps in 1996 and continuing on through to this day.

    Also, with regard to vulnerability in the workplace (and elsewhere), we – like you – are pleased to have people like Ms. Brown join – even lead! – the parade. I think one of my first uses of the phrase “When in doubt, go vulnerable,” was in the late ’90s, in a very public moment of complete speech collapse in front of the silicon valley VC dinner club….

    We have since then been writing and speaking about, and podcasting about, the personal and team practice of vulnerability. “Vulnerability attracts, strength repels…” is one of our many well established ideas/memes on the topic.

    I know you have heard – and supported – our work on this vital topic for a number of years now; but I thought it important to share our perspective in the context of your essay – since you trouble to cite your sources, at least informally. (For which, incidentally: Yay, Olaf! Information definitely wants to be free, but some information also has proud parents (like us) who love it as their very own info-children. We value beyond words our association as parents/creators/innovators of the info in question. It was scary and hard to be the first to say it in our world; to nurture it for two decades, or more; and to live and model it for any who care to see it live; and to freely offer it to all who seek it). In any case, since you take trouble, I thought I would, too.

    Even though it makes me feel somewhat – just a little – small, churlish; even though I fear to seen that way.

    I know, Olaf. that you are seasoned enough in this work, generally, to realize that there is really no way to be compensated adequately for one’s true contributions to the work. Before Agile and Extreme, and Scrum, there I was, speaking and talking and writing about (I think) pretty much every idea that has gone on to define those packages as widespread practices. And Michele was the first (workplace) ex officio team coach in 1995 (that I am aware of, anyway).

    Did I, or we, create those other things? No, we just did them – or facsimiles – and wrote and spoke about them earlier than those who came after. To say something early, or even first, is a uniquely important contribution. It goes a long way to to actually creating and validating the thing; making it safer for someone else to say it, later; even if they are unconsciously riding cultural waves of – to them, if not to me – unknown origin.

    And now, as people finally close in on the heart of the matter: Interaction, collaborative intimacy, and, at long last, Love! There you will also find us. As you know.

    I don’t know exactly why Ms. Brown, an academically savvy woman, who might be more careful and inclusive than she is with her precedents, apparently does not trouble to exhaustively cite those who may come before her in her work, not even when she is on Oprah. 🙂

    In any case, our reward, our pay, is to be seen and acknowledged for what we have done. If we are not willing to acknowledge it, who, then?

    Thanks for your listen. And your work.


    Jim McCarthy

    • Olaf
      January 20, 2015

      My dear Jim,
      I had not been aware of your post, thanks for sharing! Will include a reference in the post and acknowledge your vast infkuence on my development and thinking:-)

  2. jim mccarthy
    January 20, 2015

    Thank you, Olaf!

    I forgot also to refer to our many published words on the term, Connection, and also the practice of connecting. We have for many years been helping popularize the term as an interpersonal act, and defining the elements and practical steps toward high-bandwidth interpersonal Connection. I suppose the sections and Pattern in 2001’s Software for your Head, labelled Connection, will be as good a source as any. I suspect it is likely we are a precedent you may want to cite, if you aim to be thorough and just.

    In any case, we are so glad you or on it!


  3. VAST – Virtuous Cycle for Connection
    January 29, 2015

    […] Joint post with Olaf Lewitz. […]

  4. ScrumDay 2015 : Reinventing organizations, avec M. Sahota et O. Lewitz – Software Freethinker
    April 16, 2016

    […] augmenter cette confiance en créant la prise de conscience. Olaf et Michael nous proposent le VAST cycle, directement inspiré des travaux des McCarthy. […]


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